Drug trade booms in Dhaka prison
The Dhaka Central Jail has become a safe haven for drug trade, thanks to a nexus between a section of prison officials and inmates.
Drugs like heroin, Yaba and cannabis are all available inside the jail if one has the connections and money. And the business is booming, as a large number of its inmates are accused or convicted in drug-related cases.
About 65 percent of some 7,500 prisoners in September last year were accused or convicts in such cases, according to Senior Jail Super Farman Ali.
Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin, inspector general of prisons, admitted that some prisoners were involved in drug trade inside the jail.
"About two-thirds of the inmates are on trial and they have to appear before courts almost regularly. They often bring unauthorised and illegal goods when they return to the prison," he told The Daily Star.
According to prison sources, some inmates bring in drugs hiding those in their shoes and purses. Others get those with foods and other supplies from friends and relatives.
"The inmates even roll cannabis into small balls, wrap those with plastic and swallow [on the way to and from courts]. In the prison, they bring out the balls along with faeces when they go to toilets," said the prison boss.
Hannan, a drug peddler at Karwan Bazar who is frequently arrested and sent to jail, says cannabis balls of three sizes are sold in the jail for Tk 100 to Tk 500.
"The ball costing Tk 100 makes only one stick," said Hannan, now on bail after four months in prison.
The price is five times that at Karwan Bazar, he added.
Prices of Yaba, heroin and other drugs are almost double inside the jail, which makes the business highly profitable.
The money to buy drugs also makes its way into the jail through a secret and secured channel.
"On the very first day of their prison life, the newcomers are briefed as to how luxuries can be bought inside," says Hannan.
According to him, prison guards are part of the trade and they disguise themselves as visitors and take the money from relatives visiting the inmates.
The jail guards keep 20 percent in commission and hand over the rest to the inmates, who would use the money to buy drugs.
He claimed relatives of one of his friends managed to smuggle in Tk 30,000 in two months with the help of prison guards. "The whole amount was spent to buy drugs."
His friend, Habib, is an accused in a case over drug trafficking.
A prison source said top terrorist Arman and his accomplices serving different terms controlled the drug trade with the help of a section of the jail officials.
"To keep the business running, those accused in drug-related cases are brought to Dhaka Central Jail," added the source, requesting anonymity.
The IGP prisons said he heard about Arman's involvement in the illegal trade. "We are trying to destroy the network of these top terrorists and convicts by sending them to different jails."
He added he had plans to send a proposal to the home ministry for installing luggage and body scanners at some of the jails to check smuggling of drugs.
Deputy Inspector General of Dhaka Central Jail Golam Haider said security on the court premises should be tightened to stop inmates from getting supplies from their accomplices.
Both the officials suggested psychological treatment of the addict inmates.
"A number of NGOs have offered help to this end. The World Bank has also contacted us regarding a proposal for dealing with drug and HIV problems inside the jail," Iftekhar added.
On the prison guards' alleged involvement in drug trade, Iftekhar said he had warned all concerned of tough action.
He also cited the suspension of the chief prison guard of Bogra jail on January 29, as he had asked the guards not to check a bag that contained a liquor bottle and was being smuggled in the jail.